Between a CAT and a hard place!
Right, starting off at the top, I need to provide context for my take on things.
I carry and use (unfortunately more often than I wish was the case) a gunshot wound (GSW) trauma kit as part of my day job. Oxygen and airways are never too far away but on my person I have Celox, chest seals, Israeli bandages, shears, various ancillaries and a number of different tourniquets. I've fine tuned this kit over many years.
I then carry a similar kit when at the range or out in the bush and have access to a full (paramedic) level kit when shooting as a club.
Lastly when we deliver courses we have an amalgamation of the above, often taking the various kits to show people how they can tailor what they carry to suit their specific needs.
I've used trauma kit in anger many a time, watched people bleed out, saved far more than I've lost and trained extensively with the kit I carry and use.
Now it's safe to say the single most important bit of kit I carry is a tourniquet. There are LOTS out there, lots of companies presenting their variation on a theme. All work, to a lesser or greater extent, with various features appealing to different people.
We are in the UK and some of the better known brands haven't found their way into stores over here, as always I'm happy to hear from people about their preferences or any new items to the UK market I've not yet tried.
Now I'll get it out there and nail my colours to the mast. The CAT 'Windlass' tourniquet is the best I've used, hands down! I'm not gonna get drawn into the politics and history of it but since I've used them they have been made by CAT Resources in South Carolina in the USA. The US market likes to get theirs from North American Rescue and a few other big-hitters supply them, but this is the maker -
In the UK we saw an awful lot come over on Govt/MOD contracts, badged up from Fenton Pharmaceuticals. The Police issued ones were the same. Like anything these things found their way into the consumer market, either through light fingered individuals or as 'surplus', but in any event they were sealed and clearly made by CAT.
A number of reputable companies then started stocking them and as it stands now a customer can buy one for around £20-30 (depending on colour) brand new and in a wrapper from a reliable company like SP Services -
Like anything prices come down but rule of thumb is to get one shipped in the UK I find a genuine one costs you £25 in your hand.
I must own 10 of these. Orange, blue, black. Old ones, new ones, training ones. I even sell them as part of our trauma kits on the website and use them on courses.
The internet is not short of videos showing you how to apply one, we don't need to talk about that, anyway I always insist people get a course under their belt or even just some practical hands-on exposure to using them before they carry one. Courses aren't hard to find or expensive. I've watched people fumble around trying to put one on for the first time when someone is bleeding out, it rarely ends well!
Anyway, the CAT proper is without doubt a fantastic bit of kit and it's safe to say so much so I became a bit complacent when using or recommending them.
Only a fool thinks he has nothing more to learn! I am constantly looking for new ways to do things, new and innovative products out there and I'm fortunate to have good friends and contacts all over the world, pointing me at new things to consider.
One such buddy told me about a CAT variation he'd tried recently and said he was really impressed with it. He's an LEO in the States and competitive shooter, he certainly knows his onions. Anyway, he sent me one across to have a look at and here's what I think.
The Recon Medical Tourniquet looks on face value like a CAT, I don't know who has the rights, copyright, patent or any of that nonsense but clearly it's out there so all must be good. The first thing that jumped out at me was the price, almost exactly half the price of the CAT, with a black one available in the UK for circa £15. Straight away this made me very sceptical.
I see HUNDREDS of fake CATS out there and I've broken them to prove a point. For the record I have NEVER had a legit CAT break on me and I've got training ones that have been hammered for 10 years, but whenever someone rocks up at work or at a course I make a point of snapping the fakes, they become so brittle in the sun and when you know what to look for they stick out like a sore thumb.
Anyway, I started off from a distrusting position, Amazon reviews were on the whole good but the occasional 'this is a fake chinese copy' review found its way in there. I dug a little deeper and it appeared the outward facing impression of the Recon was a fascinating dichotomy!
Speak to people in the industry who know what they were talking about and who had been given time with the Recon and they liked it. My good buddy being one such guy. These people gave a balanced position founded in experience.
What was quite clear was that the majority of the negative comments came from customers with little or no tactical or trauma experience, more than often writing reviews on an item they didn't even own or had used. Now that's a real shame!
If you make a milkshake you want people to at least taste it and have tasted everyone else's before they say they don't like it! Fair is fair after all!
Anyway, back to the matter in hand. I've had chance to hammer this TQ from Recon and I'm struggling to find a genuine negative with it. The build quality is as good as a CAT in my humble experience, albeit I've not had it in a casualty situation yet but it's only a matter of time. In a training environment it's excelled, far beyond what I could do to a 'Cheap Chinese Copy' which I'd have broken twice by now.
It's a CAT on face value but a couple of features caught my eye:
- Metal windlass bar. Now I've never snapped a bar on a CAT, not sure it's possible but under pressure there is something reassuring about using metal/aluminium as opposed to plastics. This is something I've found with Firearms all my shooting life. May be psychological perhaps but im a tactile guy, I prefer the solidity of the metal.
- The single finger hole. I've tried pulling a CAT tight with medical gloves (zero grip) covered in blood, most recently doing so in a kitchen with half an inch of blood on the floor, it's not easy! That finger hole gives me a bit more confidence when 'the wheel comes off', again maybe psychological but it all helps! Hey, you can wear your Tactical gloves during application, I get that, or maybe you are lucky to have the 'Bear Claw' gloves with extra grip but experience tells me you'll have standard nitrile gloves on when it happens, if any gloves at all.
- UV protection bag. Now all my TQ's are in pouches on the whole, so UV damage is not something I get too worried about, this is the UK after all. But in the USA or warmer climes this is a real issue. Every Recon TQ comes with a UV bag, prolonging the life of the item, I like that!
- Recommended 'replace by' date. I like this a lot! My Celox and haemostatic items all have an expiry on them, rightly so, but I'd never seen one on a TQ before. Even the strongest plastics get weary with time and perish, sometimes it's nice to have a reminder to 'refresh them' especially if they serve a life-saving purpose!
Then we come back to the over-arching point, the price. Now I've been fortunate to have been in roles where I've used and been supplied genuine CAT products, I've also bought them at cost price to sell as part of our trauma kits on courses/the website. But more times than I care to remember I've sat with someone, at the range or on a course and they find £30 for a CAT to be price prohibitive, it's a mindset thing, but nevertheless it is an issue! These are people that want the knowledge and the kit but can't justify buying the 4 x CAT's they need for their respective trauma kits.
These people often buy the fakes, out of necessity, ignorance or frustration. The world is a greedy place full of dishonest people and auction sites on the internet will be carrying fakes badged as legit versions for a few pounds savings, even the most switched on have been caught out!
So if they are not buying a £30 TQ from SP or similar where do they go? If they've asked my personal opinion I'll be sending them to Recon!
This thing is more than capable of performing the function it is intended for in a reliable fashion at a fraction of the cost of its competitors! I see no fragility in it nor would I hesitate to use it on someone important in my life! Including myself!
Get over the internet trolls and 'armchair experts', this thing is very much worth considering!
What this won't do? Same as every similar TQ. I won't be using this on kids, I'll use the very clever SWAT TQ for that -
After all the two compliment each other perfectly in my humble opinion. I always carry both, primarily for paediatric benefits but also the SWAT allows for a second occlusive/pressure dressing alongside a windlass TQ application.
I plan to rotate these through real life and training environments for the foreseeable future and will revisit this subject in 12 months or so but so far I am very impressed!